International Cricket

Sans Kohli, India’s batting order is vulnerable enough to be exploited by Afghanistan

India’s batsmen come into the contest against Afghanistan on back of below-par performances in the longest format.

No Virat Kohli, no problem? Well, India haven’t really played without the talismanic leader much in the longest format for us to know for sure.

The last instance when he missed out on a Test was when India played Australia in the final Test of the four-match series. Ajinkya Rahane was the stand-in skipper then and led the team to a series-clinching win despite Kohli’s absence.

From Thursday in Bengaluru, the Mumbaikar will once again be at the helm with Kohli out through injury (his county stint would have made sure he missed this anyway). India face the tricky challenge of Afghanistan who are banking on the wicket-taking prowess of star spinner Rashid Khan to upset the Indian apple cart.

Being debutants, a win for Afghanistan would not be on top of most experts’ predictions – after all only one team has ever won a Test on debut, which was Australia in the first ever official Test match.

However, a vulnerable Indian batting line-up sans Kohli does not inspire confidence.

Test troubles

India’s top-order did not give a good account of their ability in South Africa. The opening slot wasn’t locked down, with Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul trading places for one of the spots in the three-match series.

Murali Vijay, who was the other opener in the XI failed to score a single half-century during his six innings. Stand-in skipper Rahane was brought into the side only in the final Test in place of a struggling Rohit Sharma, who has been left out of this one-off Test. Rahane returned with scores of 0 and 48 in the game – his second innings effort proving quite crucial as it turned out.

Batting mainstay Pujara too did not operate in top gear during the series, scoring just one half-century in the three Tests.

Save for one dramatic knock from Hardik Pandya, it was Kohli and his run-scoring ways that kept India competitive. The skipper did the bulk of the scoring.

Indian batsmen in SA

Batsman Total runs
Shikhar Dhawan 32 runs in 2 inns (50s: 0, 100s: 0)
KL Rahul 30 runs in 4 inns (50s: 0, 100s: 0) 
Murali Vijay 102 runs in 6 inns (50s: 0, 100s: 0)
Cheteshwar Pujara 100 runs in 6 inns (50s: 1, 100s: 0)
Ajinkya Rahane 57 runs in 2 inns (50s: 0, 100s: 0)
Virat Kohli 286 runs in 6 inns (50s: 1, 100s: 1)

Pujara in County

100 runs in 6 inns (50s: 0, 100s: 0)
India coach Ravi Shastri looks over the team's training session ahead of his side's one-off Test against Afghanistan. Photo: AFP
India coach Ravi Shastri looks over the team's training session ahead of his side's one-off Test against Afghanistan. Photo: AFP

One eye on England tour

With Kohli unavailable, it will be the top-order which will have to pull up their socks. The selectors have also brought Karun Nair and Dinesh Karthik into the mix and both have been out of contention for a considerable time. Karthik, in fact, dons India’s white flannels after nearly eight years.

Nair, who has struggled to maintain form following his triple century in 2016, on the other hand will treat this as a second chance to prove his worth.

Confident Afghanistan

The noise from the Afghanistan camp suggests they are quietly confident of their bowling line-up. With the dangerous Rashid Khan leading the charge, the visitors feel they can keep the Indian batsmen in check.

So far, batsmen around the world have struggled to pick the wily spinner. How he performs in the Test arena will be an intriguing aspect. Being their first-ever Test, Afghanistan are likely to be the more charged up side. Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old spin sensation has risen rapidly to become a key member of the national team alongside Rashid as well.

Most Indian players will have one mind on the high-profile tour of United Kingdom on their mind. The selection for the five-Test series is still pending and selectors would be looking at this Test as a final audition.

And most batsmen come into the contest having played for their respective franchises in the Indian Premier League and will be looking to get back into the groove in the longest format.

Pujara is the only batsman from the side who will go into the Test having played longer-format cricket following the South Africa tour. The Saurashtra batsman, however, did not set the stage on fire. In four matches in the County Championships his highest score was 41.

Back in home conditions, the batsmen will be expected to put up a better show.

But remember, the Afghan bowlers are not too alien to Indian wickets either. They have been training in India since 2015 owing to the security concerns back home.

To not have Kohli in their midst will be an ideal test for the batting line-up which in the past few years has invariably relied on him to bail them out of tough situations. The world No 1 side should still have the edge going by the overall balance of the squad but the recent form of the batsmen is a chink in their collective armour that the debutants can exploit.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.